Sowing The Seeds Of Success For Your Club
As part of Cricket World's goal to assist clubs in areas such as groundcare, administration and fund-raising, we bring you the first in a series of articles where experts in their field give their top tips.
Our first feature is on seeding your cricket ground which we have put together with help from Simon Travers (Cope Seeds), groundsman and ECB pitch advisor Paul Jackson, cricket groundcare professional Jamie Foyster and Jayne Leyland (Rigby Taylor).
Feel free to ask any more questions or share your own experiences using the comment area below!
Why is choosing the right grass seed an important investment for any cricket club?
Most would agree that the pitch is the most important asset of any cricket club. Therefore, a true even square as well as a good, reasonably fast outfield are what you would be looking for and while the construction of the square (e.g. what the undersoil is like and what loam is used) is important, having the right grass is as important.
That is why choosing the right seed is so important.
It is also worth remembering that no two squares are the same, so always work to a specific programme for your individual square. Even squares in the same town can vary hugely.
When selecting perennial ryegrass blends the desirable characteristics must always be high shoot and root density, recovery from very close mowing, disease tolerance and good cleanness of cut,
Why? A healthy plant tolerant to the playing and environmental conditions is able to maintain a higher root mass, providing stability and recovery. The blend of cultivars is really important to ensure all the desirable characteristics are included, for example R9 is a blend of four perennial ryegrasses which delivers these benefits.
This contributes to playing quality through improved surface stabilisation and also help the plant respond rapidly to maintenance inputs, particularly useful on a small square and in poorer weather conditions such as cool and overcast. And when it comes to end of season renovation or pre-season top-ups, cool temperature growth and fast establishment are absolutely essential. There are new ryegrass technologies which can really help here, in particular behind the crease.
Image © Jamie Foyster
How can choosing the correct grass seed be an important factor in player safety?
Using the right grass seed mixture with fine but hardwearing grass should help to produce a true surface with less chance of uneven bounce or "rogue" deliveries.
Ultra dwarf ryegrasses produce lower crowns and low thatch (organic matter), whilst healthy plants with high root mass near the surface aid stabilisation where it matters most. This all supports other maintenance inputs in providing a consistent playing surface and helps stabilise behind the crease for a sure foothold.
The movement of the delivery should be down to the skill of the bowler and the atmospheric conditions, not an unpredictable surface with inappropriate grass cover and poor stabilisation, helping both batsman and bowler.
It's important to avoid trial and error. Run chemical soil tests before the season so you can calculate the correct levels of fertiliser.
Image © Jamie Foyster
Why should my club invest in specialist grass seed?
Top Tips For Groundsmen
A groundsman needs the best tools for the job and good quality loam and the right grass seed mixture are two of the best tools to have in his toolbox.
Simon Travers, Cope Seeds
Maintain your grass heights at appropriate levels both in and out of season
Just because the cricket season ends, don’t forget your square needs maintaining to prevent disease. I.e. drag brushing.
Paul Jackson, Groundsman & ECB Pitch Advisor
Pre-seed preparation is essential to success
Don’t let the seed or emerging seedlings dry out
If end of season renovation is delayed due to inclement weather, blends with tetraploid ryegrasses will really provide benefits as temperatures fall away
Don’t let the grass get too long over winter, if the surface is dry enough then give it a cut and definitely reduce height gradually pre-season
Repair footmarks during the season if the size of your square or number of fixtures permit, the new blends of ryegrass are extremely fast to establish
Your choice of seed is as important as any other maintenance input, so choose carefully and always ask questions to help with your decision
Jane Leyland, Rigby Taylor
Clubs are often judged on the performance of their pitch and in the professional game, can be penalised for poor performance.
Picking the right blend of grass is essential as using the wrong varieties of Perennial Ryegrass on the square or even the wrong species will affect how the square performs and how long the grass lasts on it.
In short, investing in specialist grass seed will pay dividends down the line.
With the appropriate management inputs in place the latest ryegrass technologies can assist in the improvement and consistency of the playing performance.
A naturally healthy sward is also more cost effective and rewarding to maintain than a disease prone, weak sward because it can respond much faster to maintenance inputs.
Would using specialist grass seed increase usability of our wickets/squares?
Using the right blend of Perennial Ryegrass with good recovery traits will mean that the track will be ready for use again quicker. This is why, using the Sports Turf Research Institute list "blindly" and just picking the varieties at the top of the landscaping and Summer sports list is not the best thing to do.
One of the "plus" points on this list is slow regrowth which is something that you don’t want in a ryegrass for use on a cricket wicket so it is best to have a look more closely into the table and pick varieties that have good shoot density and fineness of leaf but don’t pick one that has good slow regrowth figures.
This is especially true for end of season renovation, particularly in the most damaged areas behind the crease. Using the latest tetraploid technology in cricket blends provides faster establishment for end of season renovation and early spring recovery due to its cool growth capability.
Example, R25CRT combines both the latest technologies of tetraploid and creeping ryegrasses as part of a four way perennial ryegrass blend.
How can specialist grass seed improve the look of our ground?
There is a mixture or blend that can help improve the presentation of the outfield if needed, dependent upon the demands of your ground.
Whether it’s improved drought, density, wear tolerance or colour for your outfield we will be happy to visit your ground and recommend the most suitable grass seed for your requirements. Preparation, examples aeration to relieve compaction and organic matter (thatch) reduction and environmental conditions, examples temperature and moisture are the key to success when overseeding.
The choice of mixture on the outfield is important. The grasses that you would use on a football pitch are not neccesarily the best for use on a cricket outfield as wear tolerance is not quite as important but the ability to produce a turf which can be cut shorter will produce a neater looking outfield that can be striped if required. A finer shorter turf will allow a cricket ball to run truer and fast through the outfield too.
Image © Jamie Foyster
By choosing specialist grass seed, can I improve the performance of our cricket square/pitch e.g. better bounce and carry?
Yes. Finer varieties of ryegrass which are suited to use on cricket squares tend to have a lower crown and therefore produce a more even surface. The bounce is probably more to do with the loam although a wicket with too much grass on it can affect bounce so grass that can be cut short without disappearing can help this.
Ground preparation and atmospheric conditions have the most influence but certainly a healthy, consistent sward with high root density will assist greatly.
Will I need to use different types of grass seed for our cricket square and for our outfield?
Yes – generally nowadays, cricket wickets use specialised varieties of perennial ryegrass whereas, the outfield, although containing a proportion of perennial ryegrass will also contain finer species like Slender Creeping Red Fescue, Strong Creeping Red Fescue, Chewings Fescue and Bentgrass.
Meet The Contributors
Simon Travers (Cope Seeds)
Cope Seeds are agricultural seed and grain specialists, processing a wide range of species both conventionally and organically, marketed to wholesale and retail customers throughout the UK.
Paul is a groundsman who looks after cricket pitches, football pitches and school grounds in North Tyneside. Also an ECB pitch advisor for Northumberland Cricket Board, he recommends Barenbrug and is currently trialling their BAR Extreme mix.
Jayne Leyland (Rigby Taylor)
Jayne is Seed Research and Development Manager at Rigby Taylor, who provide grass seed, fertilizer, herbicide, line marking and products for all areas of turf and lawn care.
Jamie fully maintains eight cricket squares all year round and is a regular contributor to Cricket World
However, this isn't always the case. It really depends on usage and environmental conditions, for example if the outfield is used for winter sports pitches, or there are environmental considerations such as drought, or if you are simply overseeding to repair and maintain the density of the outfield or undertaking an intensive species exchange programme.
Take advice from experts.
Is there a different seed to use for repairing batsmen and bowlers’ footmarks?
Normally a cricket wicket mixture would be used for the batsmen’s marks and the outfield mixture for the bowlers.
Rigby Taylor recommend the fastest possible establishment with the potential for high root mass, therefore R25CRT would greatly assist speed up regeneration of these intensely damaged areas.
When is the best time to seed and why?
Soil temperatures drop to a level where grass stops growing around mid-October and starts to grow again in mid-March so ideally, as soon as the season is over in September, this is the best time to reseed.
All seeds need adequate temperature, moisture and air to germinate and establish. Pre-seed preparation (aeration) is essential to aid germination and root development. Moisture cannot always be controlled, too high rainfall or lack of irrigation can often be the cause of failure, particularly end of season.
Temperature is also extremely unpredictable and this is why perennial ryegrass blends which germinate and establish faster in cooler conditions, that is those containing tetraploid ryegrasses such as R25CRT, provide distinct benefits for end of season renovation and pre-season top-ups.
If you are fortunate enough to have a large square where you can renovate individual pitches during the summer this will really offer benefits the following season as the sward will eb well established to take the pounding.
© Cricket World 2015